Decolonizing Gender/Gendering Decolonization
Since 1997, the IRW has convened a year-long seminar which brings together faculty and advanced graduate students from a broad range of disciplines and from all three Rutgers campuses (New Brunswick, Newark and Camden). The seminar revolves around an annual theme that is also shared by our distinguished lecture series and undergraduate learning community. The IRW's seventeenth annual interdisciplinary seminar takes as its theme "Decolonizing Gender/Gendering Decolonization." Selected Rutgers faculty, advanced graduate students and IRW Global Scholars whose projects address this theme will participate in the 2013-2014 seminar, which meets weekly from September through April. Seminar fellows will attend the Thursday morning seminar meetings, provide a paper for discussion in the seminar, and open a seminar session with an extended response to another scholar’s paper.
Scholarship on colonialism and gender has encouraged comparative studies about cultural notions of gender and sexuality as well as on the intersectionality of colonialism, race, and gender studies. In the 1980s and 1990s, important scholarship in area and ethnic studies compared the condition of women’s subordination to internal colonialism, stressing the importance of studying gender in an open dialogue with the analysis of structures of power. Foundational works, such as Women: The Last Colony (1988), The Invention of Women (1997) and Methodology of the Oppressed (2000) have proposed notions of gender, race and sexuality as central to the articulation of colonial, postcolonial, and decolonial thought. Aníbal Quijano’s “coloniality of power” was soon redefined by Maria Lugones’ “coloniality of gender.” Foucault’s notion of biopolitics was racialized and sexualized by critics like Ann Stoler, and several postcolonial critics openly addressed the complex issues of gender, race and sexuality in the contradictory condition of colonial and peripheral countries in the context of a supposedly postcolonial and global world. Third World Feminism and Women of Color decolonial critical thinking by scholars including Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Gloria Anzaldúa, Gayatri Spivak, Uma Narayan, Jacqui Alexander, Chela Sandoval, María Lugones and Ania Loomba, among many others, have been crucial in the rearticulation of new colonial and postcolonial discourses in which feminism and gender play a central role. Our annual topic for 2013-14 will explore two key sets of questions: what is (and has been) the relationship between gender and decolonial imaginaries? And how can a critical engagement with gender in colonial and postcolonial contexts promote the decolonization of notions of gender expression and sexuality and further gendered agency in a global context?
This seminar will encourage a broad conversation about decolonization as it relates to women, gender and sexuality. Seminar participants include fellows from the Graduate School of Education, as well as from such departments as History, Sociology, AMESALL and Women's and Gender Studies (New Brunswick and Camden). We will also be joined by our two WGS/IRW Mellon Fellows and by an IRW Global Scholar from Iceland.
Feminist Optics: Gender and Visual Studies
Since 1997, IRW has convened a year-long seminar which brings together faculty and advanced graduate students from a broad range of disciplines and from all three Rutgers campuses (New Brunswick, Newark and Camden). The seminar revolves around an annual theme that is also shared by our distinguished lecture series and undergraduate learning community. The institute's eighteenth annual interdisciplinary seminar takes as its theme "Feminist Optics: Gender and Visual Studies." Selected Rutgers faculty, advanced graduate students and IRW Global Scholars whose projects address this theme will participate in the 2013-2014 seminar, which meets weekly from September through April. Seminar fellows will attend the Thursday morning seminar meetings, provide a paper for discussion in the seminar, and open a seminar session with an extended response to another scholar’s paper.
This seminar will explore the past, present and futures of visual studies and feminist theory’s impact on the field’s development. How has feminist scholarship challenged practices of looking in the academy and beyond? From interpretations of the female nude in art history to inquiries about the phallocentric gaze of cinema to studies of fashion sign systems, pornography and digital culture, feminist scholarship has opened up new avenues of engaging the visual world and has been foundational to the field of visual studies.
Influenced by literature, cinema and media studies, art history, technology studies, and neuroscience, visual studies has emerged in the past four decades as an interdisciplinary field of inquiry that engages what has been described as “the visual turn” in knowledge production and reception. This includes an emphasis on training students from a very early age to be visually literate and to acquire information and data more frequently through image-based modes of communication. Also important is bio-medical research that challenges conventional understandings of how people see and acquire information. Crucial to the development of visual studies is the work of several feminist scholars whose theories of subjectivity, the gaze and optics, spectatorship and reception have radically altered studies of visual media, art, culture and technology, and everyday practices more broadly. The seminar provides an opportunity to take account of these historical, theoretical and disciplinary interventions and to consider their relevance at this moment. In addition to research in visual studies, the seminar invites inquiries into how feminist interventions in visuality and subjectivity have impacted ethnographic studies, empirical data collection, literary studies, interface software and technologies, and archival research. Also of interest are critiques of the primacy of the visual in intellectual inquiry and the growing interest in sound and haptic studies as they relate to gender and perception.
Eliot Graham is a doctoral candidate in Rutgers' Graduate School of Education. A former urban public school teacher, he is broadly interested in issues of equity in education. His current research uses ethnographic methods to explore students' relationship to authority and developing civic identities in no-excuses charter schools. He also teaches Introduction to Education and Individual and Cultural Diversity in the Classroom at Rutgers, and co-teaches Inquiries into Adolescence: Understanding and Supporting Urban Youth at Harvard's Graduate School of Education.
The Institute for Research on Women (IRW) announces its nineteenth annual interdisciplinary seminar, “Poverty.” This seminar offers an opportunity to engage poverty from multiple disciplinary, theoretical, and policy frameworks. The last decade has been marked by extreme volatility in global financial markets, growing concern about sexual rights in the geopolitical arena, and an explosion of groundbreaking academic work in gender and sexuality within the social sciences and humanities. It is also a period when many countries have seen rising gaps of wealth and access to resources. In the United States, studies have shown that large swaths of undocumented people, non-married, racialized women, rural and urban children, gender nonconforming people, and those with more marginal queer identities languish in growing states of poverty. Indeed, one might argue that poverty is the invisible and unspoken new status quo.
Poverty as a keyword has been associated with race, scarcity, cultural relativism, environmental toxicity, aesthetics, culture, and forms of inequality in income, education, health, and housing. The seminar will provide an opportunity to parse out these concepts while also attending to activism and social practices that address poverty and systemic inequalities. The seminar will examine how institutions and regulatory systems shape families, kinship, domestic relations, intimacies, and practices of care in the twenty-first century. Continuing our research on the impact of prisons on culture and gender, the seminar will also consider how the rise in incarcerated populations has impacted families broadly from reproduction to parenting to sexual intimacies to employment and labor. Related inquires focus on the conditions of labor during the recent recession and the ongoing War on Terror. This seminar attends to important scholarship on “affective labor” (Michael Hardt), highlighting feminist inquiries about labor in family and domestic settings that are often overlooked, unpaid, or underpaid. Scholarship on care, commodified intimacies, and labor practices (such as the writings of Rhacel Salazar Parrenas, Eileen Boris, and Elizabeth Bernstein) provides important context. Approaches drawing on Achille Mbembe’s necropolitics or on Giorgio Agamben’s conception of bare life and scholarly work that considers the relationship between cultural theory and poverty are pertinent. Additionally, legal, political, and sociological approaches to welfare rights, social exclusion, and environmental justice are highly relevant to this seminar.
Feminist In/Security: Vulnerability, Securitization, and States of Crisis
The Institute for Research on Women (IRW) announces its twentieth annual interdisciplinary seminar, “Feminist In/Security: Vulnerability, Securitization, and States of Crisis.” We live in a time of fear, when “security” has become a keyword, promising to alleviate threats of violence at home and abroad. Securitization has also become big, transnational business. Techniques, methods, and technologies of securitization are mobile and adaptable, and they travel alongside experts and expertise within a global market that brings together various—and sometimes surprising—actors. During the 2016-17 academic year, IRW will look at questions of international and domestic security from a range of feminist and queer perspectives. How might feminist and queer analyses and methods help us better understand regional, international, and transnational crises—from Ebola to the spread of ISIS to the mass movement of refugees? How do concepts such as homonationalism (Puar) or methods derived from “queer intellectual curiosity” (Weber) disrupt conventional understandings of sexuality, power, statehood, and international politics?
Feminist and queer scholarship have challenged and re-conceptualized many of the key assumptions of international security discourse, critiquing mainstream debates and revisiting constructs, including political realism (Tickner, Peterson), militarism (Enloe), post colonialism (Alexander, Talpade Mohanty), and human rights (Thoreson, Aradau). Influenced by feminist scholars and activists, the United Nations has broadened its interpretation of security, incorporating aspects of human security, such as freedom from rape, environmental degradation, and poverty, into a definition typically associated with the territorial integrity and autonomy of states. Yet despite its lip-service to gender equity, the UN’s approach often conceals gender-based injustices (including those related to gender identity and expression) and regularly ignores the intersectionality of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and legal status. Indeed, gender is often introduced into studies of international and human security in ways that are trivial and tokenistic rather than addressing the complex realities of vulnerable subjects globally. Although these approaches aim at securing women or sexual minorities, technologies and theories of securitization are often articulated through class, racial, and gender difference. Old problems gain new descriptions: under- and unemployed young men, for example, are no longer threats to the health of a national economy but become security threats (Amar).
At the level of the state, feminist and queer scholars and activists have used the concept of security to critically examine a variety of issues, including mass incarceration, profiling, domestic violence, and sex work. For example, the Black Lives Matter movement developed an explicitly feminist analysis of state violence under white supremacy and the ways communities of color are acutely susceptible to police brutality. Within a transnational context, scholars have demonstrated how the migration apparatus of the United States inflicts violence and terror on migrant families, often in the name of “security” for the homeland (Schmidt Camacho, Golash-Boza). Trans Studies scholars have noted similarities between the policing of national borders and the policing of genders, and described how gender-nonconforming bodies can disrupt systems of surveillance utilized in the name of national security (Aizura, Beauchamp). Indeed, surveillance technologies are increasingly used both to terrorize women and to profile populations of South Asian and Middle Eastern descent, resulting in heightened surveillance and the increasing vulnerability and criminalization of already marginalized communities. Yet while vulnerability can prove dangerous, “brittle,” or insecure, scholars also note its potential to reorient relationships between self and others, creating generative spaces for feminist interventions through solidarity and resistance (Ahmed, Butler).